Anglers fishing Upper Red Lake this spring again will be able to keep four walleyes, but a change in the size regulation will allow them to take one fish over 20 inches - making potential keepers out of considerably more of the lake's walleye population.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the new regulation Monday.
Since May 2017, the regulation has allowed anglers to keep four fish on Upper Red with only one over 17 inches. Adjusting the one-over size to 20 inches will put more mature females within the allowed four-fish bag limit during the open water season that begins Saturday, May 11. Under the new regulation, anglers will be able to keep four walleye under 20 inches, or a combination of three walleye under 20 inches and one over 20 inches.
"We're using the new regulation to let anglers remove surplus spawning stock, which hasn't sufficiently happened under the previous regulation," said Gary Barnard, area fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji. "The DNR will likely adjust the regulation following the 2019 open water season, after anglers remove the surplus of mature female walleye."
The previous regulation resulted in harvest of approximately 234,000 pounds for the 2018 harvest year. While this harvest level was a record high for any year since reopening the lake to walleye fishing in 2006, it was still short of the target harvest range for the lake's surplus spawning stock condition. That level of harvest has not been effective in reducing spawning stock toward the desired optimal condition of 2.5-4.5 pounds per acre.
Red Lake's walleye harvest is managed under a joint harvest plan, revised in 2015 by the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee. An Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee reviews harvest totals and regulation options and makes recommendations for walleye regulation adjustments for the state waters of Upper Red Lake.
"The revised harvest plan recommends an aggressive approach when walleye spawning stock is in surplus, as it is currently," Barnard said. "Anglers can expect a return to more restrictive size or bag limits in future seasons once spawning stock is managed to more desirable levels."
More information about Red Lake fishing regulations is available at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.